Sicily Travel Guide

Italy  #3 in Best Beaches in Italy
Credit

Courtesy of Federico Scotto/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Sicily

Sicily is big, so the options on what to do are nearly endless. Some of the island's top amusements are its beaches, of course, and a few of the most popular line the north and northwest coasts. Then there are the curious ruins -- the Valley of the Temples and the Segesta Temple among others. Experiencing the magnificence of Mount Etna, an active volcano, is another top activity. Eating -- everything from chicken marsala to pasta con le sarde -- is another worthy venture. Nightlife ranges from beachside clubs to live performances at Italy's largest opera house, Teatro Massimo.

How we rank Things to Do
  • #1
    Things to do in Sicily
    View all Photos
    #1 in Sicily
    Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This fuming mountain, located in the Sicilian province of Catania, is Europe's largest active volcano. The easiest way to get to this majestic natural attraction is to rent a car or join a tour group (Sicily Life and Legendary Sicily are popular companies). Once there, you can hike on some of the craters. But to really reach the heights, you'll need to take a cable car (offered by Funivia dell'Etna) from the Rifugio Sapienza building; this will cost you around €23 EUR or about $32.50 USD.  Then, from the cable-car's drop-off you can either climb even higher up the mountain to a safe viewing point or hop in one of the tour trucks for an additional fee.

    One pleased TripAdvisor user says, "The landscape is like nothing you have ever seen before, just breathtakingly deserted and lunar-like." The same user recommends being prepared for the altitude and temperature change on the volcano by wearing some kind of waterproof clothing, a warm jacket and some hiking boots, or at least footwear that's somewhat sturdy.

  • #2
    San Vito lo Capo
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    #2 in Sicily
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Many say that San Vito lo Capo (Saint Vitus Cape) is Sicily's most beautiful beach -- and it's not hard to see why. The limestone cliffs of Mount Cofano rise above the warm sands, giving this Sicilian shoreline a breathtaking backdrop. And if you forgot your picnic lunch, never fear: You'll find a number of little eateries waiting just beyond the beach. One of these, Café Europa, is well-known for its excellent Italian sandwiches, especially the panini con panelle, or Sicilian chickpea fritters stuffed into bread. Lastly, the illustrious food festival -- Cous Cous Fest -- is also held here, annually.

  • #3
    Monreale Duomo
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    #3 in Sicily
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This cathedral, located right outside of Palermo, is clearly a favorite among travelers as well as reviewers. One TripAdvisor user says: "The draw here is the incredible, lavish hand worked mosaics that cover every inch of the ceilings and a good bit of the walls. Entrance into the Cathedral itself is free. What a bargain!" Frommer's says this: "Arabo-Norman art and architecture reached the pinnacle of its beauty in this cathedral, launched in 1174 by William II."

    Pay particular attention to the bronze doors, which are covered in dozens of biblical scenes. These were designed by none-other-than Bonanno Pisano, who was responsible for the Leaning Tower of Pisa (although this is now being debated). The cathedral's fold interior envelopes you as you step inside. The mosaics are particularly arresting. And though you'll be charged a small fee to ascend the terraces, we highly recommend it; the bird's eye view of first the church and then the surrounding countryside is not to be missed.

  • #4
    Valley of the Temples
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    #4 in Sicily
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see for many visitors. One TripAdvisor user says "the only thing more difficult than describing the beauty is trying to comprehend the length of its history." The Valley of the Temples, Valle dei Templi, is actually not a valley -- but a ridge, and it's covered with seven temples constructed in the Doric style back in the 5th century B.C.  The seven are each dedicated to different deities, including Zeus, Hephaestus, Hera and Heracles.

    You'll find this compilation of ruined Greek temples in southwestern Sicily in the town of Agrigento. The Valley of the Temples, which used to be free, now charges about €10 EUR (about $14 USD) per person for admission. The site is open daily and with regular hours from about 9 a.m. to about 7 p.m. Frommer's says, "The temples are especially stunning at night, when they're floodlit." Evening hours run from about 7:30 to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday and from about 7:30 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays and Sundays.

  • #5
    Teatro Massimo
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    #5 in Sicily
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Teatro Massimo is really the place to hear Puccini, Bellini or Verdi opera, since it's Italy's largest opera house, not to mention the third-largest opera house in the world. But even if your Italian tastes run more to the Mafia than prima donnas, you might still want to plan a visit here: The Godfather: Part III's closing scenes were filmed here. One TripAdvisor user says: "To fully experience and get a glimpse of the wealthy Palermitans you must watch a performance. Not only that but the level of the orchestra, opera and ballet is excellent and there are often star guests from opera houses around the world so you will have a lovely evening amongst the splendour of the building."

    You'll find this grand opera house on the Piazza Verdi in Palermo. For more information on performances and tickets, visit the official website.

  • #6
    Mondello Lido
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    #6 in Sicily
    Beaches
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Frommer's calls this beach one of Sicily's best. But unfortunately, unless you're staying in one of the hotels that backs it, you're going to have to pay for your spot of sand in the sun. The fee is upward of about €8 EUR. While enjoying the sun and sand, be sure to ask one of the wandering vendors for a ciambelle, a delectable donut drenched in sugar, which are usually sold for only a euro or so.

    One Virtual Tourist user says, "Everyone watches the sunset from little cafes along the beach or right in the sand -- but try to catch a sunrise also." After soaking in the rays by day, you should don your best resort wear and prepare for some partying. This strip of shoreline transforms into one of Sicily's hottest places for nightlife, with bumping clubs and bars.

  • #7
    Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro
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    #7 in Sicily
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro is the island's first natural preserve, complete with more than 650 species of plants, as well as animals that range from eagles to weasels. Hiking is the main activity, but you can also climb down to the "blue-green" waters of some "beautiful beach," according to one TripAdvisor user.

    Another TripAdvisor user who calls this reserve "spectacular & beautiful" offers future travelers some advice: "I would suggest that for walking, the terrain is quite challenging unless you are a serious hiker/walker. … We did not see any [facilities] within the park whatsoever (toilets or places to buy or drink water) so this could have been a major problem."

  • #8
    Palermo Cathedral
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    #8 in Sicily
    Churches/Religious Sites
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Built on the site of a Muslim mosque, this Catholic cathedral was founded by the Archbishop of Palermo in 1184. Additions were made through the centuries, so the magnificent church is now an assemblage of architectural styles, including Norman, Gothic, Neoclassical and Baroque designs. There are even remnants of its Muslim heritage: You'll see a column carved with a verse from the Qur'an at the cathedral's entrance. One TripAdvisor user who calls the Cattedrale di Palermo "wonderful" also recommends, "if you are in a hurry skip the Cathedral Treasury."

    Keep in mind that the Palermo Cathedral (or Cattedrale di Palermo) is also known as the Santa Maria Assunta cathedral. You'll find it in the Quattro Canti, or at the center of the city's "Four Corners." Open daily with shortened hours on Sunday, the cathedral charges about €5 EUR (or about $7 USD) for entrance and another small fee for the treasury and crypt.

  • #9
    Segesta Temple
    View all Photos
    #9 in Sicily
    Churches/Religious Sites
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This Doric Temple, which rises high on a hill overgrown with fennel, is one of the greatest examples of this style of architecture. Yet, the Greeks didn't build it; rather, the Elymians -- or the indigenous people of Sicily -- constructed it in the 5th century. Although gazing at the 36 Doric columns is enjoyable, some say what's even better about the site is its surrounding view.

    One TripAdvisor user writes: "The best part of the Acropolis is that you are greeted with breathtaking views especially from the [Amphitheatre]. The walk back down is steep but welcoming and also offers stunning views of the Temple below."

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